How to Play Defense: Two on One
Two-on-one is a really tough defensive situation to be in, but if you play defence for any length of time, you'll eventually face a two-on-one.
It's impossible to cover both players 100%, so the best strategy is to prevent the puck carrier from making a clean pass to the other forward, and let the goalie handle the shot.
Your position will depend on where the other forwards are when they cross the blue line. Your default position is skating backwards between the two forwards at roughly the same speed as the faster of the two forwards coming in.
If the puck carrier is wide along the boards and the open forward is in the middle lane you can position yourself closer to the open forward so you have a better chance of checking him after the pass.
If the puck carrier is closer to the center lane, you'll be better off playing him a little tighter. You still want to try to prevent a pass, but if the puck carrier decides to go in on net himself, you'll want to be close enough to try to impede his shot.
The farther away from the net the player shoots, the better the chance your goalie has of stopping the shot, so try to push the shooter to the outside as best you can. This isn't easy, because if you over-commit to the puck carrier, and he gets a last minute pass off to the other forward, it's going to be really tough for your goalie to move across the net and get into position.
Here's a great defensive play by Ovechkin breaking up a two on one against Boston.
Here we have Martin Havlat of the Minnesota Wild doing his best to stay with the Canuck's Manny Malhotra in this two on two. Even though Havlat was sticking tight to his man, is wasn't enough to keep Malholtra from scoring.
The pass was not all that hard - a bit of a floater. This made it tempting for Havlat to try to play the puck. If you watch the replay closely, he does it fact get a piece of it. Unfortunately the puck hits Malholtra's skate, then bounces on to his stick, and the rest is history.
The lesson here is to play the man, not the puck. Once the puck arrived, Havlat should have been trying to make sure Malholta didn't receive the pass, rather than try to intercept the pass himself. He could have used his body or tied up his stick.
I am by no means an expert on this, so I'd be interested in other views. Please leave your take in the comments.